What is raw? Why raw?
Uncooked food! For more detailed information, see the Raw Food page on this site.
Do I need supplements on a raw diet?
As with a vegan diet, you should supplement B-12 (since topsoil & clean food is devoid of this nutrient) and possibly vitamin D if you don’t live in a sunny climate or eat a lot of sun-soaked mushrooms. The best B-12 supplements are chewable or liquid. Broken-cell chlorella is one of the few foods that contains bio-available B-12. (Note that the B-12 in spirulina & many other foods is not in a bio-available form & may interfer with B-12 absorption, &, for the same reasons, bloodtests are not accurate measures of B-12 in the body’s cells – a urinary MMA test is required.) Also see the Vegan FAQ for more info. Also, many raw foodists still eat B-12 fortified nutritional yeast or yeast spread for extra B vitamins.
Will I lose weight on a raw diet? Will I cure my [insert condition here]?
Both are likely, neither are guaranteed. There is plenty of supporting evidence around that a balanced raw diet makes one’s weight “normalise” ie. you will attain & maintain your own ideal healthy weight, which may be higher or lower than what you are currently. Many people lose weight initially while they are adjusting to the varying volume of calories & food required on the diet. As for “conditions,” if you are seeking help with a serious disease, you ought to contact raw physicians & health centres & read the literature available. Diabetics will be interested in Victoria Boutenko’s books & the film Raw For 30 Days. For less serious, yet chronic, conditions, self-education & experimentation can achieve results, but don’t be afraid to ask professionals & raw physicians (like Gabriel Cousens) or long-term raw foodists for help if you’re unsure about what you’re doing.
How do you get enough protein?
There are 22 amino acids that have been identified thus far (there could be more – nutrition science is incomplete). 8 amino acids are essential, & the remainder the body requires can be manufactured by combining these. Meeting the RDAs (which can vary greatly between organisations & countries!) is not as difficult as people imagine. Our bodies recycle 80% of protein, & protein is required primarily for growth – obviously not so important for adults – & tissue repair.
Additionally, it may actually be easier to obtain enough protein on a raw diet, since cooked protein is denatured & largely unusable, while raw food doesn’t have this problem. Conventional RDAs are based largely in animal-based cooked food, so protein requirements may actually vary in vegan & raw diets!
High protein foods include: hemp, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, sprouted beans, sea vegetables, maca, avocado, carob, cacao, raisins, broccoli, & many others.
Check out a website like fitday.com to see how much protein & other nutrients you eat in a day. Also note that some USA RDAs are rather over-inflated compared to many other nations. You might want to consider looking up European RDAs or the WHO for a different point-of-view from parts of the world not so plagued by obesity & dietary-related diseases…
Will a raw diet upset my digestion?
If you eat loads of fruit, sure! Overeating particular foods can do that to anyone. High fruit diets can be a shock of fibre & water. &If you change your entire eating pattern overnight, it’s possible you might experience some upset until your body adjusts! However, a balanced raw diet shouldn’t be the cause of digestion problems (a few pre-existing conditions may mean you need to change your diet more slowly than others).
Won’t raw food make me cold in winter?
Warm food doesn’t warm you up, besides the steam on your face, the act of cooking, & putting your hands on a warm bowl! It’s largely psychological rather than physiological. We can’t eat food heated much higher than body temperature without burning the inside of the mouth. It’s the process of digestion that creates heat in your body. Eating foods that are slower to digest can also seem to increase (or at least prolong) the warmth in your body. There are plenty of ways around “feeling” like the food is too chilly… Not eating it straight out of the fridge is the best place to start! Room temperature food is usually fine. Adding spices or warming food slightly in a dehydrator or open oven can help you “feel” warmer, too! &If you’re not 100% raw, a side dish of steamed vegies or soup or tea is fine.
Isn’t it boring &/or restrictive?
Like veganism, absolutely not. Like many things in life that people have told me will be “too restrictive” I’ve found the opposite is true. You’ll often find a lot more creativity within the pages of many raw recipe books. There are 7,000 edible plants in the world, many of them edible while raw. You can sprout, dehydrate, marinate, blend, freeze, juice, chop, dice, julliene, purée. You can combine 100s of readily available foods in many different ways to create an infinite number of tasty dishes. At each step – from vegetarian to vegan to raw – I’ve ended up with a greater variety of food to choose from. Just because it’s not on the menu at the local unsophisticated steakhouse doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it’s hard to come by! It just means many people have been taught to be exceptionally lazy & uncreative when it comes to food.
Is it expensive?
It should be cheaper. It depends what sort of ingredients you buy, how much organic you buy, whether you eat gourmet every day of the week… There are many, many factors, but the general rule to eating is: less packaged & pre-prepared food = cheaper. There’s nothing less packaged & pre-prepared than fresh fruit & veg & nuts! If you go for a lot of superfoods, it can get expensive. Remember where superfoods are concerned: less is more. Supplementing a diet with superfoods is fine, but heavily supplementing in place of a varied diet isn’t going to get you anywhere except into debt!
Is organic important?
Yes, & sometimes no. Heavily pesticided crops? Yes, avoid them, go for the organic option. Low pesticided or non-pesticided crops, like avocados? Not so much. Locally produced food from known growers who don’t muck around with chemicals? No. If you live in a country with few pests? Not as much again. It’s worth looking into these things. Regularly consumed pesticides will accumulate in your body over time, & it’s best to avoid it.
What is “detox”? What are “toxins”?
Changing diets can cause the body to release accumulated heavy metals & other compounds that have built up over time in the cells, fats, &/or organs in the body. When you stop exposing your body to toxins & begin introducing a vast array of absorbable healthy nutrients, it is given the opportunity to release what has accumulated & replace them with stuff that is actually good for you! While this occurs, you might experience “detox” symptoms, which can include sluggishness or tiredness, cold or flu, or any number of other – usually quite mild – symptoms as the toxins move through the body & find their way out. This usually doesn’t last very long, & not everyone experiences them. Toxins in your body may have come from any number of sources, including: processed foods & chemicals in your food, pesticides on produce, exposure to synthetic chemicals in your environment, tap water, overcooked/fried foods (eg. acrylamide)… almost anything. (Interestingly, suffers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often show unusually high concentrations of heavy metals in their cells, & increasing raw food has been shown to help reduce fatigue significantly… although I can’t remember where I read that study! Ask a CFS raw foodist about it! There are quite a few of them around, & lovely folk they are, too.)
What about eating out & socialising?
How much raw you eat is up to you. Most of the service industry should happily provide service as requested on request. If they don’t, take your business elsewhere! & remember, a smile, politeness, some enthusiasm, & many thanks & tips can go a long way! Don’t be afraid to ask for a menu item to be altered, or to order something that isn’t on the menu at all. Many chefs enjoy the chance to be creative! Creating the same dishes day in & day out can be quite a drag. A quick look over a menu will give you an idea as to what fresh raw food a restaurant has in their kitchen.
If friends & family ask questions, answer them honestly & simply if you can, but don’t feel you have to explain yourself, particularly early on when you are still learning & might not have all the answers ready to go. (Don’t go into great detail unless people ask for a lot of detail, no matter how exciting raw food is to you – people can feel like you’re judging them!) You might want to say it makes you feel happy & healthy & energetic, it’s nutritionally very adequate, & whatever other benefits you personally perceive, & that ought to be enough for most friends & family. If it’s not, suggest they do some more reading in the area so you can have a more informed & useful discussion with them, rather than waste time: both yours & theirs! If they’re not willing to understand your point-of-view, don’t worry about it. Perhaps just smile & move on to something else. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, but you can always keep yourself happy.
I don’t have the will-power! I love my [insert junky snacks & processed carbs here]!
It’s not really about will-power at all. I was tired of my allergies & other problems, & decided it was easily to try these things & escape my health problems than to labour on miserably at every change of season. So it’s about having a solid motivation, something that’s more important to you on some level – or every level – than where you are now. Improvements come in life when the desire is honest, not just a “might be a good idea, maybe.” Trying a little bit more raw food brought some benefits straight away, & more brought more & then more &… It quickly cascaded! The more weight I lost, the more energy I experienced, the more time that passed without illness, the more I wanted to eat more raw food! If you focus on the gains rather than initial perceived losses like junky snacks & empty processed carbs (which later you may well forget about entirely!), you’ll enjoy yourself, & that’s the main thing. Focus on having fun, & let nature take care of everything else. + If you eat plenty of greens & a variety of food, you shouldn’t have much of a problem with cravings.
Can kids eat a raw diet?
Yep! Kids can eat up to a high raw diet, but 100% may not be ideal for everyone. Check out Evie’s Kitchen by Shazzie for some good info on that. There’s also a useful appendix on how to feed young children in the back of Gabriel Cousen’s book Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine. Also check out the Diet & Bone Health article by Stephen Walsh PhD from the UK Vegan Society for an overview of what you should know about nutrients for growth & bones.
If you don’t follow a 100% raw diet, there are other vegan fermented & cooked foods that can be beneficial to child growth that can comfortably be included in a high raw wholefood vegan diet, eg. fermented foods for vitamin K2 such as natto, tempeh, miso, & sauerkraut; soy/nut/rice vegan yoghurt & probiotics to assist conversion of K1 to K2 in the intestines (K1 largely comes from greens); for choline: peanuts, soy lecithin, & potatoes, (in raw food: sprouted grains/lentils, oats, nuts & seeds, & some vegetables like cauliflower); vitamin D from sun-soaked mushrooms & sunlight on the skin.
Do I have to be some kind of hippy or earthy spiritualist to participate in the “raw movement”?
Hell, no. You can be as cynical or as punk or as tattooed as you want, just as plenty of “cooked food vegans” are. In fact, I would appreciate it. I don’t like people confusing dietary & ethical issues by mixing in their own personal brand of spirituality. While that’s all well & good on a personal level, it hampers communication. The hippy stereotype is less common to general veganism these days, but it still seems to dominate the “raw” image. It makes it confusing & off-putting for others… & I thought the point of good health & improved ethics was to share them with as many people as possible! Less vague talk from spiritual-type folks about higher vibrations & the magic of enzymes in raw food could actually turn out to be a good thing…! While that has it’s place in the world, I don’t think that place should be part of promoting raw food. Some of us are staunch atheists &/or cynics who require something a bit more solid! Sticking to facts & peer-reviewed research, etc, when communicating about the benefits of raw veganism is far more convincing & palatable to a broader audience.
What are some good reasons not to be 100% raw then?
- Understanding the raw diet can take some time & research. If you don’t have much spare time, then a vegan diet based in cooked food will be far, far easier & still comes with many huge health improvements. No matter how “natural” it seems, these days the raw diet is somewhat specialised: few people are experts on it, & the community at large is less informed &, consequently, less supportive. Most people have grown up in a cooked food-based culture, so we need to reeducate ourselves before diving in, particularly if we plan on bringing others along for the ride! Thankfully loads of great raw books & research began coming out over the last several years, but wading through & assimilating the information does take time.
- If you travel in the developing world where hygiene & water conditions are less than ideal, you might want to keep cooked food as a part of your diet so you don’t upset your digestion by making heaps of changes when you do travel. Again, the resources around these days makes travelling as a vegan easy, but raw food can be challenging in many places.
- If you have an existing chronic condition, such as IBD, IBS, colitis, or Crohns, you might want to eat more raw food to soothe your condition, but eating a lot of fruit will not be ideal. Some cooked food might be a better balance while you work on your health. If you encounter problems eating raw food with any of these conditions, it may be that your intestines are working more slowly with certain foods, giving them chance to ferment in your gut. It’s best to read up (try the book Self Healing Colitis and Crohns by David Klein) or ask a raw food physician/pro for advice about these conditions.
- All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy. All dietary health & no fitness/exercise or social/emotional health will make Jack a dull boy as well! A balanced outlook on life is important. Don’t be all about what you’re shovelling into your face 24/7 – although while you’re learning a new way of eating you might want to have a bit more emphasis on it! Some people find raw simple at 100%, some find it requires more thought – it depends on where you live, who you live with, & where you’re at in life on a personal level. There are other things in life to worry about besides nutrition, & there are certainly many more issues to consider just where consumption itself is concerned! Animal rights, human rights, & the health of the environment all come into play as well. Focusing on your own health obsessively at the expense of others (& often their sanity!) can also at the expense of your own health! Extending a little compassion into the world goes a lot further than just worrying about yourself. When the health of the environment or others suffers, then that affects your ability to live well, too. Remember animal industries are the most destructive, polluting, & unsustainable on earth – being vegan for the animals, for your health, & for the environment is vitally important. The chance to explore raw food & improve on all of that is just a bonus!
Isn’t it time-consuming &/or difficult?
Like anything, it can be if you choose to make it that way. But, if you want it to be quick & easy, it can be, & there are plenty examples around these days to show you. Raw veganism is quicker than cooked veganism by a long way. Similar to the boring/restrictive question: from vegetarian to vegan to raw – I’ve ended up spending far less time on food preparation.
Vegan food is usually quicker to prepare than non-vegan food because you don’t have to worry about cutting up/deboning/defatting animal flesh and cooking it properly, and raw food is quicker again because you don’t have to cook at all! It’s just prep and eat! The exception is the more gourmet raw foods requiring blenders, food processors, and juicers, which can take a bit longer. Up to 15-20 minutes, but usually closer to 5 minutes or less. A few times I’ve found myself standing in front of raw cuisine thinking “is that it? That can’t be it!” because it’s so quick to make.
The other exception is food made in dehydrators, which can take anything from a few hours to a few days… Of course, you don’t actually have to do anything other than put the food in the dehydrator, and from there it looks after itself, unless you want to be fancy and flip things over during the dehydration time. The only tricky thing about using a dehydrator is planning ahead a little… But seriously, just how tricky is that? Not very. Your brain is capable of thinking ahead occasionally – if you want to try dehydrated food, don’t be afraid to use a dehydrator… or your brain!